Thursday, April 21, 2011

Copper Canyon to Baja Peninsula

Day 2 at the Posada Barranca Mirador Hotel on the rim of Mexico’s spectacular Copper Canyon began with an excellent breakfast in the hotel’s dining room that featured enormous windows facing the canyon. We had made arrangements the day before to take a tour of the nearby village of Divisedero, ride the zip line into the canyon and take the newly completed aerial tram back to the rim. Knowing that we couldn’t possibly do it all, our group of 6 split up with Mark, Anne and Howard doing the zip line and Dave, Marisa and Lynn taking the land tour. Our zip line adventure was quite a thrill as we sped along the steel cables suspended high above the canyon and crossed several suspension bridges on foot (think Indiana Jones or old Tarzan movies) to connect the 7 legs of the ride. We couldn’t help but squeal with glee each time we left the loading platforms on the cliff edges and rocketed toward the opposite side at speeds that filled our eyes with tears. After our morning adventures, our group compared notes over lunch at the hotel and made plans for an afternoon hike. Before we knew it, the day was done and a restful sleep in our rooms awaited us. After breakfast the next morning, part of our group took another hike into the canyon before packing for the train and bus trip back to the coast. While checking-out, we made a special effort to thank the incredibly friendly staff at the hotel. It was, once again, a great example of the genuine warmth of the Mexican people.

While waiting at the platform for our train down the mountain, we were able to observe several Tarahumara Indian women and children selling beautiful, hand-woven baskets made from pine needles, tree bark and cactus. The appear to be a very solemn people, rarely smiling and unwilling to socialize with outsiders. Once aboard the train, we found the ride to be quite comfortable, aside from the occasional banging and clunking of the train car connectors as the engineer applied the brakes. We had made to decision to take the train all of the way to the town of Los Mochis and spend the night there before continuing by bus back to our boats in Mazatlan. Our Copper Canyon hotel staff made reservations in las Mochis for us at one of their sister hotels (Hotel Santa Anita) and upon exiting the train, we found the hotel’s bus already waiting for us. We looked at each other in disbelief, again amazed by how smoothly this entire trip had gone. Surely, someone’s compound fracture must be lurking around the next corner. After another pleasant hotel stay we walked about 10 blocks to the bus station confident that busses to Mazatlan would be running every hour. We arrived at 8:40am to find that a 9:00am bus was available and that the next one was not until 8:00pm. How long was our luck going to continue? Prior to boarding the bus, we had just enough time to scurry to a nearby taco stand for chorizo, scrambled eggs and fresh tortillas to go, yum.

Our bus ride took just over 6 hours and we were treated to 3 terrible movies with dubbed Spanish dialog. Even though the movies were awful, it gave us all a chance to improve our limited Spanish as we strained to understand what was going on. By mid afternoon we were stepping off the bus in Mazatlan and within moments climbed aboard a waiting “red truck” for the ride back to the marina.

Wow, what a great trip... good friends, spectacular scenery, delicious food, warm Mexican hospitality and flawless logistics. It could not have worked-out better. And no, there were no compound fractures.

Even though we all had a marvelous time, we were happy to return to our boats and get underway on the next leg of our journey, a crossing of the Sea of Cortez to the Baja Peninsula. We all hustled the next day provisioning and doing pre-departure boat chores. When the following morning’s planned departure time arrived, we found the harbor shrouded in fog and would wait 90 minutes until we had adequate visibility to safely negotiate the harbor’s narrow entrance.

Our overnight crossing to the Baja was quite pleasant due to smooth seas and a brilliant full moon. In the evening after dining on Anne’s homemade chili, we took turns standing watch while the other napped. Our only complaint was the the winds we so light that we had to motorsail all but 4 hours of the 28 hour trip. By afternoon of the following day, we were safely anchored in crystal-clear water off the beautiful, sandy beach at Ensenada de los Muertos (Bay of the Dead). The bay features a modern hotel and golf course in a development called Bahia de los Suenos (Bay of Dreams). It’s easy to imagine why the resort’s marketing people changed the name as foreign travelers would likely be a bit put-off by the literal translation of a name that is characterized by a celebration in Mexico.

We spent a peaceful night anchored there while planning our next-day’s snorkeling and hiking activities. Like many nights before, we drifted off to sleep, gently rocked by the ocean swells feeling so fortunate to be living this dream.

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